Game of Thrones Season 8 spoilers ahead!
After almost two long years of waiting, Game of Thrones Season 8 has finally premiered on HBO. Our review of the premiere episode is here, but we have plenty more GoT goodness beyond that. For more theorizing, check out why the crossbow Qyburn gave Bronn matters, what weapon Arya asked Gendry to make for her, and 17 other Easter eggs, references, and callbacks to earlier episodes you might have missed. And for a deep dive into each episode of Season 8, check out GameSpot of Thrones with Westeros superfans Lucy, Ryan, Tamoor, and Dave each week as we count down the final six episodes of Game of Thrones.
Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 1, the premiere of the show's last and final season, was not actually as exciting as you might have hoped. Mostly, it was full of setup for the conflicts to come. That may have been a bit disappointing, but it was also probably necessary, given how much story still remains.
That said, it was still packed with references to past episodes, Easter eggs for book readers, and much more that you might have missed. From the title of the episode itself to the veiled reference to former Game of Thrones guest star Ed Sheeran, here are the things you should have taken special note of in the show's sixth-to-last episode ever.
Read next: Game of Thrones Season 8 premiere review
You wouldn't think that the title of the episode itself would be a hidden reference, but for some reason, the episode actually has no title when you access it through HBO's streaming app. In fact, you had to see the press release sent out by HBO's PR team after the episode aired to know that it's titled "Winterfell."
2. New Stories
The opening credits are significantly different in Season 8. First and foremost, the gyrating rings circling the clockwork map throughout the credits have had new, more recent tales engraved on them, from zombie Viserion's destruction of the Wall to the Red Wedding. It's thematically appropriate that events of the show are already being turned into legend as the end approaches.
3. A Brand New Westeros
The opening credits also went to a new location, while existing locations looked different. We visited Last Hearth briefly (RIP Lil Lord Umber), while the Wall now has a giant hole in it, and the crypts at Winterfell and the dragon skulls at King's Landing received special highlighting.
It also appears like this animation is tracking the path of the White Walkers' army--the tiles turned blue from Eastwatch to Last Hearth, where the undead have marched by the episode's end. It will be interesting to track their progress throughout the season.
4. The Prince That Was Promised
The new title sequence might contain one final hint of things to come: The last engraving we see features four dragons with a shooting star. As the Azor Ahai prophecy states in the books, "When the red star bleeds and the darkness gathers, Azor Ahai shall be born again amidst smoke and salt to wake dragons out of stone." The red comet glimpsed in Season/book 2 has widely been interpreted to represent this prophecy, but there are a ton of other theories. Hopefully we'll find out the answers this season.
5. Arya's New Weapon
Arya and Gendry's reunion at Winterfell wasn't just so they could get their flirt on. Arya also asked Gendry to make her a new weapon. Although he didn't comment on it beyond asking why she'd need something like this, we caught a glimpse of Arya's sketch, and it looks something like a staff with a detachable dragonglass head. The other end is out of focus, so it could be a handle, or another blade.
Game of Thrones weapon master Tommy Dunne told Vanity Fair that "there is one creation in Season 8 that is absolutely phenomenal. It’ll be a showstopper. That was great to finish. It was great to make, great to design in that it was able to be reverse-engineered and made into two different items." It's likely he was referring to Arya's new toy. Hopefully we meet it in Episode 2.
6. THAT Crossbow
7. It's Always Sunny In Westeros (For Now)
Even if you're a diehard It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia fan, you probably still missed Rob McElhenney's cameo in the Season 8 premiere. The Sunny co-star and co-creator portrayed one of the Ironborn men who got savagely dispatched when Theon arrived to rescue Yara. Luckily, McElheney himself posted a screenshot to Instagram for those of us who didn't catch it.
8. Ed Sheeran Got His Face Melted Off
Singer Ed Sheeran had a cameo in Game of Thrones Season 7, and some viewers viewed it as a bit too cutesy for the show. In the Season 8 premiere, we got a sneaky update to his character: The prostitutes hanging out with Bronn discuss a Lannister soldier named Eddie with ginger hair who got his eyelids melted off during the Season 7 battle with Dany and Drogon.
At least he didn't get it as bad as "Tall Handsome William" ("They say what's left of him could fit in a wine glass").
9. A Dragon's Name
The show confirmed something long speculated over in the books: Jon has an affinity with Dany's dragon Rhaegal. The significance? Dany named Rhaegal after her brother, Rhaegar Targaryen, who's also Jon's father--as he found out at the end of this episode. Dany will probably look back at this dragon ride in a new light once she learns the truth as well.
10. Something About Jon And Nature
The scene in which Jon and Dany hook up near a beautiful waterfall and cave is deliberately reminiscent of a much earlier scene between Jon and Ygritte. In both cases, Jon's love interest suggests they shirk their responsibilities and simply stay there for the rest of their lives. Apparently something about natural splendor just makes Westerosi women, from Wildlings to Dragon Queens, go nuts for Jon Snow.
11. Jon's Hunting Grounds
You wouldn't know it from watching the episode, but Game of Thrones co-creator Dan Weiss mentioned in the post-episode featurette that the remote location to which Jon and Dany flew was Jon's old hunting grounds. "When he flies up with her and shows her where he used to hunt as a kid, I think she falls even farther in love with him," Game of Thrones co-showrunner David Benioff says. Maybe that explanation is a deleted part of the scene that we'll see someday.
12. I Was Told There Would Be Elephants
Cersei isn't the only person who's disappointed the Golden Company didn't bring their elephants to play. The sellsword company is famous in the books for multiple reasons, chief among them the fact that they ride huge grey elephants into battle. With so much of the show's CG budget apparently being expended on lengthy, farcical dragon rides this season, there wasn't even room for a Ghost cameo in the premiere--so understandably, the elephants are nowhere in sight. Cersei's vocal disappointment is a funny way for the show to acknowledge this lack.
13. Postmates Fun
This isn't strictly a show Easter egg, but if you ordered anything on food delivery app Postmates last night, you would have seen a familiar shadow take shape on the app's delivery-tracking map. Fun stuff. (via Reddit)
14. Next Time We Meet
Ned Stark (remember him?) and Jon Snow parted ways early in Season 1 of Game of Thrones. At the time, Ned had never spoken to Jon about his mother--for reasons that are understandable in retrospect. But Ned promised Jon that he'd reveal all the next time they met. At the time, that probably seemed like a smart move to Ned--he'd tell Jon about his Targaryen heritage after Jon swore the Night's Watch oath, forfeiting any claim he might have had to to Iron Throne--which at the time was occupied by Ned's bff Robert Baratheon. If Ned had seen the future in the flames, he might have handled this differently, but unlike Bran, he can't change the past.
Fast forward to the Season 8 premiere, and where did Jon receive the news of his true identity? Down in the crypts, directly in front of Ned's tomb--and with the statue of his mother, Lyanna Stark, framed in the background. Well done, Game of Thrones.
15. Worship The Spiral
There are a lot of theories about the recurring spiral visual the Night King/White Walkers like to use. Obviously it has an alien feel and likely strikes fear in the hearts of men, but it may be more significant than that.
As Reddit users have pointed out, the spiral bears some resemblance to the three-headed Targareyn dragon sigil. It's also been repeated multiple times throughout the show, including in the scene where Bran witnessed the White Walkers' creation. We'll find out in the final five episodes whether this means anything or is simply some neat visual symbolism.
16. Cersei's Pregnancy: Real Or Fake?
We still don't know whether Cersei is telling the truth about being pregnant. She had plenty of reason to want to manipulate Jaime and Tyrion during Season 7, and feigning a pregnancy might have been an effective strategy. Then again, if she's for real preggo, she might be hatching a different scheme: By bedding Euron, Cersei might be able to make the pirate lord believe the baby is his, which will cement his loyalty to her. This is one of the most unpredictable plot threads in the show, so we'll have to wait and see.
17. What To Do With A Lannister Baby
It may be significant that we didn't see the end of Tyrion and Cersei's conversation during the Season 7 finale, when they apparently struck a deal to bring her forces North in exchange for--what, exactly, from Tyrion? As Tyrion told Sansa in the Season 8 premiere, he believes Cersei has something to live for--she's pregnant, although Tyrion hasn't revealed this to anyone else yet. Maybe he promised Cersei something more than he's let on in exchange for her help?
In Season 7, Tyrion on multiple occasions brought up the issue of succession to Dany's rule, since she believes herself unable to have children. Here's a hypothetical deal both Tyrion and Cersei could agree on: What if Tyrion promised his sister that he'd convince Dany to take Cersei's child as her heir, should Cersei lose the war to come? It would explain why Tyrion actually trusts Cersei (as misplaced as that trust might be), and it would create yet another interesting wrinkle if Dany does manage to conceive a child with Jon.
Entertainment Tonight's Leanne Aguilera and I discussed this theory and much more in this week's episode of our series Theories and Thrones (watch here).
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